Wider adoption of situational awareness solutions will reduce collisions and insurance claims

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Groke Technologies is calling on marine insurers, P&I Clubs and regulators to encourage the widespread adoption of ship situational awareness systems as way of mitigating the rising number of claims relating to collision and other accidents attributable to human error.

The clarion call comes amid growing concern amongst insurers that a myriad of external factors, including the shortage of seafarers, and a general increase in ship traffic, could result in more ship collisions and related incidents at sea.

“While ship losses continue to fall, the number of navigational incidents, collisions and near-misses is deeply concerning,” says Groke Technologies’ Chief Commercial Officer Jonas Bergring.
Citing a ship safety report published in late 2023 by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, Bergring says 17% of all marine insurance claims between January 2017 and December 2021 were attributed to collision, foundering or sinking.

“Of the 27,477 incidents reported in the period 3098 were attributed to collision, making it the second top cause of shipping incidents globally,” he says. “Collision also accounted for about 1 in 10 of the 3032 incidents reported in 2022, up on the preceding year’s figure. Overall, there is about a 5% increase on the number of incidents reported in 2019.”

Casualty investigations carried out by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) also found that collision is second only to power loss as the main cause of ship incidents. The organisation found that the most very serious collision-related accidents happened at night (50%), twilight (12%) or bad weather in daytime (9%).

Bergring says contributing factors include bad weather, poor visibility, watchkeeper fatigue and information overload, and congestion, especially in waters around the British Isles, South China Sea, and Singapore Strait – all risk factors that can be substantially reduced using situational awareness systems.

“By partnering with the marine insurance community to encourage wider adoption of situational awareness technology we can reduce the number of human error related incidents to ensure vessels navigate more safely in congested and challenging waters. There would be a rapid and significant reduction in ship collisions and the associated financial and environmental risks. The reduction in insurance claims could benefit P&I Club members hugely,” says Bergring.

With increasing use of digital shipping technology, combined with a global shortage of experienced officers and crew, Bergring anticipates that integrated ship situational awareness technology will be a mandatory IMO requirement by 2028.

“Before that will come class notations and voluntary IMO guidance, probably by 2026, so it is quite timely that the insurance community is becoming more interested in the technology,” he says.

Groke Technologies CEO Juha Rokka, adds: “Watchkeepers find it difficult to correlate the objects they are seeing with their eyes with the view on the instruments on the bridge. The Groke Pro system helps by associating the objects between the camera view and the chart view. There is a delay for bridge systems to update, which naturally adds to the complexity of the thought processes required of a watchkeeper. The challenges increase when visibility is low or when there are large numbers of small vessels and objects around. This racks up the cognitive stress and can result in mistakes being made.”

Groke Technologies’ Ship Situational Awareness System is based on unique sensor fusion technology that fuses data from the ship’s navigational systems namely Radar with Groke Pro’s AIS, GNSS, and thermal and visual cameras, to provide bridge crews with a clearer picture of the vessels surroundings, day and night.

Alerting watchkeepers of potential collision risks, objects and hazards, the Groke Pro system is unlike typical digital watchkeeper solutions in that it provides real-time risk analysis capability, presenting crews with crucial as-it-happens information on which to base navigational decisions and plan routes more efficiently.

The recently launched Groke Fleet expands situational awareness from the bridge to the onshore offices. It gives fleet managers an overview of their fleet’s safety and efficiency. It can also help with claim handling, says Bergring: “Groke Fleet automatically records every significant event during the voyage, including close-call situations. If a collision occurs, there is concrete evidence of how things unfolded from Groke Pro’s onboard 4K cameras.”

Shipping companies that have already installed the technology include Mitsubishi Corporation, Uyeno Transtech, Tsurumi Sunmarine, Asahi Tanker, Tokyo Kisen, K-Line and U-Ming Marine. It is also being used to full effect on the MC Shipping-owned, Cargill-operated Pyxis Ocean, the wind-assisted bulk carrier.

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